Monday
Jun032013

The newest member of our flock...

When I went outside to put the chickens in last night just after dark I had a pleasant surprise.  I looked into a small grove of trees where the chickens often roost to make sure they were all in the coop and to my surprise there was a duck!!  Just hanging out and looking up at me, as surprised as I was.  So, I continued on and closed up the chickens.  I tried to show Molly the duck, but when we went back out the duck was gone.  Then she woke me up this morning and said, "I think there's a duck in the yard".  Sure enough the duck was standing outside the chicken coop staring at the chickens and they were staring back at the duck.

 

I went outside and gave the uneasy duck a wide berth as I let the chickens out.  Luckily the roosters are all still fairly small, the duck quickly secured it's place in the pecking order and now we have a duck!!

She's a welcome friend. We only hope she'll find her way back to her flock, but for now she's seems to be staying put.

 

Thursday
May232013

Foraging for fiddleheads.

 Last week we went on a canoe trip with Dave to one of his secret foraging spots to find some fiddleheads.  Fiddleheads are the nickname of a juvenile edible fern that grows around much of New England, known commonly as the ostrich fern or Ptretis pensylvanica, if your so inclined. 

It's always a special adventure when someone offers to show you one of their secret spots, especially one so rich in amazing plants!  So, we put in to a river that will remain unnamed and floated to the banks of the spot...  As we climbed over the banks we realized it was perfect timing. 

We had never harvested fiddleheads before and we learned from Dave, that the best ones are just starting to unfurl from the clumps.  Luckily the rainy weather had kept any other wildcrafters away, often when someone picks through a patch the plants will signal one another and the whole patch will unfurl soon after, to protect the remaining plants from being overharvested.  We also found some great patches of nettles, an amazing medicinal, and grabbed up a few bunches to bring home to dry for tea.

  When we got home we cleaned off the chafe(the brown outer shell that is high in tannins and has a bitter taste) by rubbing the dry fiddleheads in front of a fan.  We then blanched most of them and packed them into serving sizes and froze them for an out of season treat.  The rest we cooked up and ate over the next week and they were delicious!!  All in all it was a great way to spend an afternoon with friends and we are thankful to Dave for the experience.  If you've never harvested fiddleheads Do Some Research First!! or go with someone who knows how to identify them.  It's not hard, but there are other ferns that are poisonous if ingested.  And as always with wildharvesting don't overharvest!  Leave more than you take, so they will always be there.  If they've already been harvested heavily, don't take more, just enjoy the opportunity to walk in the woods!

Friday
May102013

Very Egg-citing

 

 

 We love eggs around here. During this busy time of year I try to keep a bowl of hard boiled eggs on hand as they are a quick and nutritious energy boost. My only complaint about fresh, grass-fed chickens eggs is that they can be really hard to peel. It is really kind of annoying to peel your egg and end up with most of it stuck to the shell. I have tried a lot of different ways to remedy this over the years- from letting the eggs come to room temperature before boiling them, adding a splash of vinegar to the water, using older eggs, ad naseum. My latest attempt have been to add about a half a teaspoon of baking soda to the boiling water.

I think it works. Ah, the sweet satisfaction of small victories.

What's your secret to making the perfect hard boiled egg?

 

Friday
May102013

Breaking Down the Wall- Plant Allies

We are going to start doing a series introducing and talking about some of the plants that are around us on the CECLA farmstead. I was introduced to the concept of the Green Wall by a wonderful herbalist and plant teacher by the name of Frank Cook. Frank had this idea that when most of us go outside and look at the forest it looks like a great mass of plants, trees, and shrubs- a GREEN WALL. It can feel very inaccessible and overwhelming to try and comprehend. However, by learning about the plants and trees that comprise the environment around us we can begin to break down this wall. We can learn to identify edible weeds in the landscape to put in our salads or recognize the bark of the sugar maple that gives us its sap to make the sweet treat of maple syrup. We can begin to have a relationship with the plants and the forest. We are all stewards of the earth and cultivating a relationship with a piece of land is an incredibly rewarding and satisfying undertaking. It is such a thrill to walk through the woods and be able to pick out different plants; learning about their medicinal properties, habitats, their blossoms, and their fruit, among many other aspects, all the while.

Frank Cook passed away in 2009. You can learn more about him here. Here is a great video of Frank talking about the connectedness of us all.

Dandelion- Taraxacum officinale

I am going to start today with the simple and lovely dandelion. I love a yard full of dandelions! The name dandelion comes from the French, "lion's tooth" (dent de lion), due to its jagged leaves.  I think dandelions are perhaps one of the wildest creatures I know. She can grow anywhere- from a crack in the sidewalk to a "weed-free"subdivision. Dandelions send out long tap roots that help bring nutrients and minerals up from deep in the soil. You can use the flower, leaf, and root in different preparations. Dandelion is a traditional spring cleansing plant as it is good for cooling and strengthening the liver, cleansing the blood, and has a diuretic quality.

I like to add dandelion leaves to my salads as they are very high in minerals and potassium. I like their slightly bitter crunch. Dandelion flowers can be used to make wine or infused in olive oil and used as a rub for sore muscles. I have also used them to make jelly, which was very sweet and delicious. The root can be dried and roasted to be used as a substitute for coffee. These are just a few examples of things you can with dandelions and don't forget laying down amongst them and soaking up the spring sun.

 "It gives one a sudden start in going down a barren, stony street, to see upon a narrow strip of grass, just within the iron fence, the radiant dandelion, shining in the grass, like a spark dropped from the sun"

-Henry Ward Beecher

 

 

 

 

Monday
May062013

How to move a yurt down the road, floor system and all!!

So we moved the yurt on Saturday, platform and all!!  Thanks to the skills of our friend Bump we moved the yurt and entire floor system without dismantling it at all. Although we did take the wood stove out, which probably weighs as much as the yurt itself, the rest rolled into it's new spot as a whole. It was quite the project and we all slept soundly Saturday night.

Bump put the finishing touches on the cradle.

We mounted the cradle and jacked the yurt and cradle clear of the posts.

We used some milled timbers as makeshift ramps lowered her on some rollers and away she slid!

Almost to the driveway! Smooth sailing after that right?

The aftermath...

Nice and easy, here comes the corner....

Well, the corner could have gone smoother. But we're still on the rollers. I mean after all it's not really a yurt sized road.

About now Bump and I are getting a little tired of carrying trees from back to front, repeat, shudder, twitch...

But, we made it! Bruised battered and sleeping well tonight.   Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen! Especially Bump!